A Terrible Choice: Harassment or Housing?

May 17, 2018

National Association of REALTORS® members learned about HUD’s top priorities, security protocols both on and offline, and new loan options for military veterans as the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo continued Wednesday.

In a conversation with NAR First Vice President Vince Malta during the General Session, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said the public needs more education about what constitutes sexual harassment.

HUD Seeks End to Harassment

Having recently settled sexual harassment lawsuits against landlords and other housing authorities in three states, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “real goal is not to get the most compensation for victims but to eliminate this kind of harassment altogether,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson told attendees Wednesday at the General Session. HUD, which brought the charges in California, Florida, and Virginia, settled for $125,000 for the victims in the cases. Read more about HUD priorities discussed at the session.

The FTCs Jacqueline Connor

Data Security, On and Offline

Jacqueline Connor, an attorney with the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, told REALTORS® at the Risk Management Issues Committee meeting Wednesday that it’s vital to incorporate cybersecurity practices into business plans before your data is threatened. “Data security is obviously crucial for businesses of all sizes, regardless of what kind of data they collect,” she said. “You don’t want to have to think about security after you’ve been hacked.”

Connor offered tips from the FTC’s Start With Security: A Guide for Business, a document that details 10 lessons that have been developed from past legal cases at the agency. Some key takeaways include deleting (or never even collecting) consumer data you don’t need, ensuring that vendor contracts include security procedures, and enabling firewalls and encryption.

Connor also addressed security protocols that have little or nothing to do with technology. “Physical security is just as important as cybersecurity,” she said. She encouraged brokers to create rules about how agents store devices that contain sensitive data. (Are they allowed to leave laptops in a locked car, for example?) She also noted that some legal cases the FTC has pursued against businesses have had nothing to do with high-tech solutions to data vulnerabilities. “We sued them because they threw papers away in a dumpster.” Connor encourages REALTORS® to download the full guide and view updates based on more recent cases at the FTC’s website.

Attorney Phil Schulman spoke at the Business Issues Committee meeting.

Don’t Run Afoul of Kickback Rules

Make sure your business arrangements with settlement service don’t cross the line as kickbacks. Phil Schulman, partner at Mayer Brown, a law firm in Washington D.C., gave an update on the section of the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act that tackles legal marketing and advertising activities between real estate professionals and settlement service providers during the Business Issues Committee meeting Wednesday. Learn what he had to say about legal lead generation methods, desk rentals, service agreements, and other arrangements with settlement service providers.

New Loan Option Could be Boon for Veterans

Real estate professionals who learned about a new mortgage option for military vets during a meeting of NAR’s Federal Finance Committee hailed it as a much-needed avenue toward taking advantage of no-down-payment VA loans. The purchase-rehabilitation loan, recently unveiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, would help borrowers cover renovation costs and bring a property into compliance with VA loan standards. Learn more about this option.

REALTORS® spent Wednesday with lawmakers advancing key industry issues.

Top Issues REALTORS® Took to Capitol Hill

On Wednesday, REALTORS® visited with their members of Congress and focused on four main issues: saving net neutrality, extending the National Flood Insurance Program, making tax policy adjustments, and ensuring equal access to housing opportunities. Learn more about these real estate topics and why members are advocating for support.

—REALTOR® Magazine